Nigeria Battles Cargo Under-Declaration Crisis

MWUN Calls for Urgent Reinstatement of Tally Clerks to Safeguard National Revenue

by Oluwatosin Racheal Alabi

In a detailed examination of the challenges faced by Nigerian ports, the President General of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Adewale Adeyanju, has brought to light the persistent issue of cargo under-declaration—a problem that not only undermines the operational integrity of the ports but also poses a significant threat to the national economy. The crux of this issue, as identified by Adeyanju, lies in the absence of tally clerks, a situation that has opened the floodgates for unscrupulous activities by shippers and their collaborators, ultimately leading to substantial revenue losses for the country.

The role of tally clerks historically has been pivotal in the maritime industry, ensuring the accurate recording of cargo quantities as ships unload their goods. These professionals serve as the first line of defense against fraudulent practices by verifying the quantity and condition of cargo, thus maintaining transparency and accountability in port operations. However, with the advent of digitalization and the phasing out of manual tallying practices, Nigerian ports have witnessed a gap in their operational integrity. The lack of physical verification allows for considerable manipulation of cargo records, where shippers can declare only a fraction of the actual cargo, severely impacting port revenues and compromising accountability.

Adeyanju’s concerns extend beyond the mere absence of tally clerks to highlight a broader systemic issue within the Nigerian maritime sector. He emphasizes that the under-declaration of cargoes is not an isolated problem but a symptom of larger operational and regulatory lapses. The situation is exacerbated by the inaction of key stakeholders, including terminal operators at private jetties, who have been accused of flouting regulations and hindering government-appointed contractors from conducting necessary oversight activities. This resistance to regulation and oversight further entrenches the culture of opacity and facilitates illicit activities within the ports.

The call to action by Adeyanju is a plea for comprehensive reform, directed at both the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy. By highlighting the need for governmental intervention, Adeyanju underscores the importance of re-establishing rigorous checks and balances within port operations. He suggests that decisive measures are required to address the root causes of under-declaration and illegal operations, which include re-integrating tally clerks into the cargo verification process and enhancing the oversight capabilities of regulatory bodies.

The urgency of Adeyanju’s message is clear: the integrity of Nigerian ports and the sustainability of the maritime sector are at stake. He advocates for a multifaceted approach to reform, encompassing both technological advancements and the reinstatement of proven traditional practices like tallying. This approach not only aims to curb the immediate issues of under-declaration and illicit activities but also to restore confidence among international shipping companies and investors in the Nigerian maritime sector.

Furthermore, Adeyanju’s call extends to a broader assessment of port facilities and jetties to identify and rectify irregularities. This comprehensive evaluation is envisioned to pave the way for a more transparent, efficient, and accountable port system, which is crucial for Nigeria’s ambition to become a leading player in the global maritime industry.

In conclusion, the challenges highlighted by the MWUN President General serve as a critical reminder of the systemic issues plaguing Nigerian ports. The absence of tally clerks symbolizes a larger problem of governance, regulation, and enforcement in the maritime sector. Addressing these issues requires a concerted effort from all stakeholders, including the government, regulatory bodies, and the maritime workers themselves. By taking decisive action, Nigeria can safeguard its ports’ integrity, protect its revenue streams, and secure its position in the global maritime industry. This is not just a matter of operational efficiency but of national economic security and prosperity.

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